What do you think of when you think of being courageous? Do you envision yourself racing into a building engulfed in billowing flames to rescue an elderly man trapped beneath the rubble? Or perhaps see the need to take on the mantle of someone like Rosa Parks and refuse to give up your seat on the bus; thus setting into motion a new world order? Perhaps it is a simple as not crossing the street one morning to avoid the bully always waiting to intimidate you at the corner?
Courage comes in a variety of ways, but each represent an opportunity to listen to our moral conscience and do the right thing, regardless of the personal impact or injury it might bring to ourselves. It sometimes requires grandiose acts; other times it is accomplished by simply saying or doing nothing. Regardless of the situation or circumstance, when you choose to be courageous, you choose to put the greater good above self.
“Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.” –Ambrose Redmoon
Being able to shed fear and live your life despite the challenges of rejection, oppression, injury, etc., takes incredible courage. To stand up for what is right requires incredible strength. You don’t have to be Dr. Martin Luther King, standing up for equal rights. You can be the lone person who stops to wipe the tear of the homeless woman, suffering in the cold, that others ignore as they pass by. You can acknowledge her existence and give her hope. That’s courage.
What can you do to bolster your courage? Practice and strengthen your courage muscle with simple exercises that allow you to step beyond your comfort zone and listen to the inner voice of conscience. Simple tasks like:
- Give a complete stranger a genuine compliment
- Ask someone with very opposing views their opinion on a controversial topic — and just listen
- Make eye contact with a someone on the street and don’t look away until they return your smile
- Buy lunch for two and share it with a stranger. Ask them about their life; be genuinely interested in their story.
- Ask three colleagues for constructive feedback about how you interact with them.
- Thank a person who performs menial service and actually let them know how much you appreciate what they do
- Confront a negative person and politely let them know how their words/actions impact others; let them know how much you wish they would try being more positive for a change and how much more valuable they could be with a different outlook
Simple random acts of courage give us all the experience and the confidence to know — without a doubt — that real courage lies within all of us. Practicing simple acts of courage now and exploring how you feel, will give you the confidence to know you have what it takes to really exhibit the courage to stand down your fears when you need it. You may never need to be that lone, anonymous guy — shirtsleeves his only armor — facing down the tanks in Tiananmen Square. But should the time ever come to stare down the enemy — whatever or whomever it is — you’ll know you’ve got what it takes!